If the weather cooperates, it's a fantastic trip. I load my Itouch with audiobooks, music, and podcasts (NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" is a favorite). I have three days to relax, bond with my dog, and anticipate seeing Mom, Dad, brothers Rick, Jeff, their kids, their kids' kids, my college girlfriends, and who knows who else--someone always pops out of the woodwork from my youth. I also get a chance to see my dear friend Ellen, in Kansas. I spend one of my travel nights with her on the way, and two nights with her on the return trip, spending an extra day seeing her world, shopping, hitting yarn and thrift stores, and having a great time.
I also like to drive because I can pack whatever I want, I'm not relegated to one suitcase. Good thing! I usually have Christmas presents (heavy canned goods, anyone???), plus there's the mandatory multiple knitting projects, my work laptop for keeping on top of work projects, and stuff for the dog, of course. Bedding, blankets for covering other people's sofas, food, treats, toys, chewies, poop bags, more treats, water, dishes, etc. etc. etc. Here's what went into my car on November 6:
This year, I was a bit nervous to drive across country in November. My fears were justified when I woke up to this the morning I left:
|Tune up the angel's choir: Hallelujah! Sun!!|
|Black volcanic rocks with plants figuring out|
a way to survive; amazing stuff.
|"The Window,"an arch in the making|
|Not the best time of year to see it in full bloom,|
Even "Thereby Hangs a Tail" ceases to interest Carly. She soon becomes a slug:
I wish I could nap while driving...
To stay awake, I have a favorite stopping point in Pratt, Kansas, which I generally arrive around lunchtime on Day 2. I found a hidden gem of a town park two years ago. It's a large park with your typical ballfield or two, but what makes this park a wonderful stopping place is its large expanse of an open grassy area interspersed with various trees such as large oaks, maples, and some sort of cedar (introduced??) that on Day 2 in the rain glowed a brilliant rust. I lucked out and arrived during a period of about 30 minutes when the rain stopped, and managed to get a decent walk in for Carly. After that, it started to rain again, so I grabbed my lunch and ate in the car.
The Flint Hills
I finally reach Witchita, and take off onto the Interstate 35 tollroad, a very nice, clean highway. About an hour to go to reach Emporia and Ellen! Almost right away after Witchita, I enter the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The Flint Hills (more information can be found here) are what National Geographic describes as "the last great swath of tallgrass prairie in the nation." It is a sublime, beautiful landscape; rolling hills that stretch for what appears to be miles. In the fall, the grass turns various hues of gold and rust, with some remaining greenery interspersed. I was able to shoot a few pictures through the rain:
After spending the night catching up with Ellen, eating Chinese food, and settling Carly onto Ellen's sofa, all while the rain continues to come down, we wake up to a beautiful, clear blue sky. Whew. The day is looking bright, especially after our morning Starbucks visit. I am now driving on Interstate 35 all the way to Austin, MN, an hour away from home. The drive takes me through what I consider the true Midwest. Kansas, Kansas City, a bit of Missouri, Iowa, and southern Minnesota.